This video, and this experiment is one of my favourites. These kids sit there and try helplessly not to eat the marshmallow. The way it works is that they are promised that if they resist the temptation to eat the marshmallow now, they will receive 2 at the end of the time period. And then they squirm. Watching this internal struggle seen so clearly is a thing of beauty, mostly because it’s so familiar to us.
Our ability to rationalise situations in which we should resist an immediate temptation in return for future reward is a cognitive ability that develops as we mature. Thank goodness for that, because it is so very important in so many aspect of our lives, the most obvious perhaps is saving money. Less obviously however, this ability to resist immediate temptation plays a huge role in our health. Some people enjoy exercising, others do it because they know that in the future it will be good for them. Some people enjoy eating healthy foods, others eat healthy because they know that in the future it will be good for them. However when it comes to sleep, the rewards are sometimes very tough to see.
It is no secret that we feel great after a good night of sleep. Our mood is usually better, we have more energy, patience, and I could go on about the many advantages to sleep. However, overcoming a rough night can sometimes be done artificially with a few cups of coffee, or some fresh air. The tiredness comes and goes throughout the day, and much of the time it’s not there at night when we need it most to remind ourselves of how tired we really were. We also may have the illusion that we get more done because we utilise more hours of the day. Even though this may not be accurate (spoiler it’s not), we still can have that illusion. At the end of the day, much of the time we are willing to stay up late, undertaking a conscious decision to put up with the fatigue of tomorrow.
There are a few downslides of sleep depression that are a little less obvious. A number of studies have been done which point to some long term risks of sleep deprivation which we will not see, and may fail to attribute to something that could have been prevented.
There is clear evidence to suggest that sleep deprivation over the long term puts you at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks. A famous study conducted on women found something surprising however; short-term sleep deprivation ALSO puts you at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as long-term deprivation.
Sleep deprivation was also seen to be a risk factor for increased blood pressure. As if this isn’t enough, sleep has also been proven to increase inflammation chronically in the body. Prolonged inflammation is one of the known risk factors for cancer.
These are 3 very significant examples to the long-term risks of sleep deprivation. Even if you think that you are ready to deal with the crappy feeling of being tired tomorrow, consider that the few hours that you are gaining now might have some significant negative effects in the future. Sleep well, and don’t give in to short-term gains at the expense of your long-term health.